War with Brussels: Hurd rounds on the Tory Euro-sceptics

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The Independent Online
Douglas Hurd, the former Foreign Secretary, last night issued a sharp warning to senior Tory Euro-sceptics that their goal of subordinating European law to national law "in all circumstances" would mean saying "goodbye to the single market"

In a further sign of a fightback by pro-European Tories, Mr Hurd combined another withering onslaught on the prejudice of nationalistic newspapers with a call for the removal of the remaining obstacles to a true single market.

Mr Hurd told the Ulster Bank dinner in Dublin that the "supra-national powers given to the [European] Commission and the European Court are essential if we are to achieve a full single market".

Mr Hurd pointed out that it was Baroness Thatcher who had been "quite right" to agree to a "substantial degree of qualified majority voting to set the single market in motion."

He said there was no case for extending the powers of the Commission and the European Court "into other fields where governments can operate effectively on their own." But he added: "In the field of the single market, the Commission and the Court are the allies of those who want the playing field to be level. We should help them to move further and faster."

Mr Hurd's remarks about the importance of the European Court to progress on the single market will be seen in the Tory party as a rebuke to those ranging from John Redwood to Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, who have argued for moves to drastically reduce the reach of European law.

Mr Redwood yesterday repeated his call for a declaration that Parliament was superior to European law. Mr Howard has been arguing behind the scenes for an amendment to the 1972 European Communities Act to remove the obligation on British courts to enforce European law.

In arguing that more needed to be done to liberalise the internal market, Mr Hurd cited the example of public procurement contracts, which were "too often skewed, for example in Germany, in favour of the local firm." He added: "There is still too much bureaucracy in the European and national standards organisations."